Debenhams workers staged protests at KPMG offices in Dublin, Cork and Galway on Tuesday morning just hours after packers were sent in to stores in a bid to break the strike.
Former Debenhams staff have been holding sit-ins at the company’s stores across the country since April in a dispute with the firm over redundancy terms. One of the workers said they are “incensed” at the dispatching of packers to stores. “KPMG are attempting to grab stock from a number of shops. They haven’t listened to workers and made a proposal for a few crumbs.
“Valuable stock in 11 shops is being protected by workers until a fair settlement is given.”
The Irish arm of Debenhams, which operated 11 stores, was placed into liquidation in April.
The staff claim the package offered to them when the company was liquidated in the spring was unfair.
They are set to receive statutory redundancy payouts of two weeks of salary per year of service. The workers are demanding four weeks’ pay per service year.They are also calling on the Government to waive monies owed to it through the liquidation process so they can be used to boost the redundancy packages.
A potential deal between KPMG, Debenhams’ liquidator and trade union Mandate was rejected by workers who continue to demonstrate saying the deal failed to deliver four weeks’ pay per service year.
Vita Cortex support
Last week Debenhams staff on the Cork picket received support from former Vita Cortex workers, who staged a successful 161-day sit-in in 2011 at their factory in Ballyphehane in the city in a bid to secure a proper redundancy package.Cal O’Leary, a former Vita Cortex worker, said that he was heartbroken to see history repeating itself with the Debenhams workers now 166 days in to their protest.
“We were lucky in that we had visitors coming in and out bringing us food. These women are standing out in the rain.
“I was with Vita Cortex for 44 years and I know the staff here are also employed a long time. I never expected this to happen again. It is a disgrace. Some legislation has to be put in to protect workers. “These people worked 20 and 30 years for the shop and surely be to God something should have been put aside for them.
“I hope this never happens to anyone again. We were promised legislation and never got it. I hope they make a difference this time.”
Cork Debenhams shop steward Valerie Conlon said they will find the energy to continue until a resolution is found. “Everyone is a team here. All we are getting is empty promises from the Government. There is money in Debenhams. They have €95 million in the bank. Plus they are selling off their Danish company which is worth €200 million.
“Whatever about anything else the Government has to change the legislation now for the employees going forward.”
Meanwhile, Cork Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould has called on the Government to listen to the requests of Debenhams workers. “These workers are brave and they are determined. They are now involved in the longest running industrial action this state has ever seen and it is time for the government to intervene, put an end to this and give the Debenhams workers what they are entitled to,” he said.
READ MOREMartin: Debenhams workers ‘badly let down’ but Government cannot legally intervene